This week the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) released a white paper on eagles and wind power entitled “Eagles and Wind Energy: Identifying Research Priorities.” AWWI brings together leading conservation organizations, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and members of the wind industry including AWEA to invest in strategies and tools that facilitate wind energy development while protecting wildlife.
The goal of the white paper and of AWWI’s eagle initiative, of which the paper is a part, is to help resolve challenges relating to wind energy development and eagle protection. AWWI developed the white paper with extensive input from eagle experts, many of whom participated in AWWI’s November 2011 Eagle Workshop, and the group continues to work with experts, agency staff, conservation organizations, and wind energy industry partners to advance this goal and implement its eagle initiative.
AWWI’s white paper synthesizes current knowledge of eagle population status and trends, as well as of human-related causes of fatalities including wind energy, and identifies priorities. Findings of the white paper include:
– Population status and trends: Bald eagles are thriving, while the status of golden eagle populations is uncertain;
– Anthropogenic (human-related) sources of fatalities: Review of data of known eagle fatalities recorded between 2006 and 2011 from all anthropogenic sources suggests that electrocution for golden eagles (50%), and poisoning for bald eagles (36%), are leading sources. Wind turbine collisions in the Altamont Pass account for 21.5% and wind turbines at other sites 0.5% of all golden eagle fatalities, according to the same data survey;
“Eagle experts, wildlife agency staff, conservation organizations, and the wind energy industry are collaborating to improve our understanding of the status of eagles, to better avoid and minimize impacts to eagles during wind project development and operation, and to create scientifically rigorous mitigation options to compensate when eagle take is unavoidable. Collectively these efforts will protect eagles and facilitate wind energy development,” said Taber Allison, AWWI Director of Research and Evaluation and the author of the paper.
“As a commercially scalable, water-conserving, emissions-free technology, wind energy is a critical asset in the fight against climate change, which poses a looming threat of potentially enormous magnitude to all wildlife, including eagles,” added Allison. “The collaborative, science-based approach of AWWI and its conservation and industry partners makes it possible to invest in solutions that both advance wind energy and protect wildlife.”
Research topics discussed include
(a) addressing information gaps on demography and status relevant to calculating take thresholds;
(b) developing unbiased estimates of eagle mortality;
(c) creating models for siting and operational strategies that avoid or minimize eagle fatalities at wind energy fatalities;
(d) expanding options for compensatory mitigation; and
(e) coordinating and enhancing existing collaborative research.
The white paper concludes that AWWI should focus over the next 12 months on expanding options for compensatory mitigation while continuing to identify, support, and collaborate with other research initiatives, as appropriate.
Looking ahead, and building on the white paper, AWWI will continue to work with eagle experts, conservation organizations, agency staff, and industry stakeholders on the eagle initiative, specifically to develop alternative management scenarios that offer the highest potential for increasing eagle productivity or adult survival, and implementation success. The new mitigation options—which will support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in carrying out, and the wind industry in complying with, the Service's 2009 Eagle Rule—are expected to facilitate the permitting of wind energy facilities while conserving eagles; they will have broad application for offsetting eagle take and enhancing eagle management.
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